My first date, though I’ll confess I’m not completely sure it really counts, was to see The Three Musketeers with Tim Curry as Cardinal Richelieu. It’s not a good movie, but he’s a delight in it. He’s been a delight in a lot of bad movies and a handful of good ones. Many, many years ago I saw about fifteen minutes of a made-for-TV production of Three Men on a Boat that he was in and have regretted ever since that it doesn’t appear to have ever had a home video release of any kind.
A story that I have always loved is that he actually provided his own costume for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Oh, it’s possible that “provided his own costume” meant “bought his own costume,” but given how early in his career it was, it seems unlikely. Apparently, he just had all that stuff in his closet. The book Midnight Movies sums the movie up with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not erotic. Tim Curry is erotic.”
Which is why it’s so odd that most of what he’s done in the forty years since then is play villains. Yes, everyone thinks of Rocky first, but I think for most of us, his second movie is Legend or Muppet Treasure Island—or Fern Gully, which is mine and, like no few of them, animated. Clue is pretty popular, too, probably, and his character there is considerably more ambiguous. Whether he’s a villain or not depends on which ending you’re watching.
Like Alan Rickman, I suspect it’s because there’s something about that voice. It’s smooth and rich as caramel. He manages to be sniveling in The Shadow, but it seems to be through effort, and he’s more convincing in the movie when he’s playing at being important. I haven’t seen Legend (it’s the Tom Cruise thing), but if that’s what demons are like, one suspects that it can’t be all bad to be damned.
If he has done a true drama, it’s one of the handful of his films that I’ve not seen. Still, one of the things I feel must be brought up is his gift for comedy. No, Dr. Frank N. Furter isn’t terribly funny most of the time, but Dr. Farley Claymore is. Wadsworth’s humour is dry but there. Even Cardinal Richelieu. He is one of the many bright points in the underrated Sylvester Stallone comedy Oscar. There is a sense of malicious glee to such characters as Hexxus. His characters aren’t reliably laugh-out-loud funny, but you do, on the other hand, get your fair share of dark chortles.
Most of his Rocky Horror castmates are only really known for that film. The few known for things beyond Rocky tend to treat the movie as a novelty from long ago or else are Meat Loaf, not best known as an actor. Tim Curry is still well known but still best known for being Dr. Frank. If he manages, despite his failing health, to play the criminologist in the upcoming made-for-TV Rocky, the two productions will probably bookend his career. It could be worse, depending on how that production goes.